2 Simple Things About Cross Pollination

plant species and cross pollination

There are a lot of misconceptions, no pun intended, out there about plants and cross pollination.

Here’s the truth:

1. Plants can only cross with others of the same species, literally.
2. It will only affect the seeds.

So, can a cantaloupe cross with a cucumber?

No, because a melon is Cucumus melo and a cucumber is Cucumus sativus. They are both in the same family Cucurbitaceae, and have the same genus Cucumus, but they are different species: melo and sativus.

Family–> Genus–> Species
This is how living things are classified.

Well then, what happened in the picture above? It looks like a cross between a kohlrabi and a Brussel sprout.

Well, let’s see. Brussel sprouts and kohlrabi are both classified as Brassica oleracea, so the seed this particular plant was started from could easily have been the result of cross pollination. This seed was purchased, so the cross didn’t happen here.

Pretty neat, huh?

In our gardens there are a lot of Brassica plants, which includes cauliflower and broccoli, in the same area. If any of them flower at the same time, the resulting seeds could be crossed.

If that happens, we intend to save those seeds just to find out what we get. Of course, we don’t actually want our plants to go to seed, so it is unlikely we’ll ever get to find out.

But we are having fun watching this one grow!

How to choose squash to prevent cross pollination.
The Jones’ Garden System.

July 26, 2015  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: Cole Crops, FAQs  No Comments

Calling it Quits

how to grow potatoes

Often there comes a time when you realize it is better to pull plants and replant something else.

Such was the case this year with our potatoes. We got them planted on time, but the spring turned back into winter, then into summer briefly, back again to spring… well, you get the idea.

Throw in a few Colorado Potato Beetles and the plants have had it. So although it is a bit early, they are being pulled and another crop will follow. Actually, more than one.

Since we have 3 main potato areas, there will be plenty of room to seed carrots, beets, kohlrabi, turnips and rutabagas.

Often we get asked why we dedicate so much room to a relatively inexpensive veggie. For one thing, we have the space. Mainly though it is because farmed potatoes are hit heavily with both pesticides and herbicides before sending them to the store or making them into french fries for our kids.

I read once, don’t know if it’s true, that potato farmers plant a separate bed for their own families. I wouldn’t be surprised, but don’t get me started.

So if we have a bad year and the crop is less than we wanted, we just use them a little more sparingly. It has been better than we expected because of the weather, so we’re happy. And we’ll try to make them last the year,
because we won’t eat any potatoes unless they are organic.

While we’re talking, what’s your favorite spud to grow?

The Easiest Way to Grow Potatoes.
The Jones’ Garden System

July 25, 2015  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: Eggplant, Peppers & Potatoes, FAQs, Techniques & Issues  4 Comments

The Edible Nasturtium

edible flowers

Beautiful to look at and an attraction for pollinators, nasturtium flowers are also edible.

Most gardeners describe the taste as “peppery”, and often say they are similar to radishes. We would have to agree, and add that they have a slight taste of cucumber as well. They are great either stuffed, added to salads, or used as a garnish.

You can also eat the leaves, and many say that if you pickle the seeds they are similar in taste to capers.

Nasturtiums are easy enough to grow, just direct seed a week or two before your last expected frost date, in the garden or in containers. If you want to start them indoors, do so in the pot they will remain in as they tend to dislike being transplanted.

Many varieties have a mound growing habit which makes them very good for planters.The trailing types are beautiful in hanging baskets as well as mixed in with your veggie plants, especially cabbage and beans. They can also be trellised by gently tying them to a vertical structure. Picture some red runner beans and nasturtiums together, how fabulous that would look and still feed you.

The 2-3″ blooms range from pale yellow to deep purple and are often sold as a mixture, though you can buy one-color varieties such as the heirloom Empress of India.

Botanical name: Tropaeolum minus or majus
Growth Habit: Mound or trailing, in ground or containers
Height: 10-16″ for mounding types, up to 10′ for training varieties.
Days to Germination: 1-2 weeks
Days to Maturity: 55-65 days
Location: Partial shade to full sun.
Uses: All parts are edible.
The Jones’ Garden System
More detail on Wikipedia.

July 24, 2015  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: Edible Flowers  No Comments

How to Avoid the Need for Insecticides

Photo credit: Tom Moon

Photo credit: Tom Moon

Consider:

  • Insecticides kill bugs. Good bugs as well as bad bugs.
  • Organic insecticides kill bugs. Good bugs and bad bugs.
  • Insecticides should be avoided, and by all means when used, used properly.

Here’s the thing. Some gardeners make the assumption that if an insecticide is organic, it is okay to use with abandon.

It isn’t okay if you are a bee.

There are a some things you can do to avoid the use of insecticides:

  1. One of the best things  is to work with nature, not against her. By allowing some natural weeds to grow, by planting a variety of herbs, flowers and veggies, and even by letting some of them go to seed, you will be creating an environment that will attract more bugs both good and bad. Now you may be thinking ‘Why would I want to bring more bad bugs into my garden?’ The answer is, to feed the good bugs. If you don’t have something for them to eat, they will go elsewhere and then the bad bugs will find you anyway. Having more bugs overall will give you a better good:bad ratio.
  2. Bring more good bugs into your garden, like Ladybugs and Assassin bugs. You can buy Ladybugs and let them loose, but you need something they like to make them stay. Assassin bugs, besides their huge appetite for many bad bugs, are attracted to Queen Anne’s Lace. Considered by many to be just a weed, it is actually a relative of carrots and parsley, and we think it’s quite lovely.
  3. When you do have a problem,  it still may not call for  insecticides. For example, you can remove bad bugs manually. We knock Japanese beetles off leaves and into a jar of soapy water. It’s easy to do and doesn’t harm anything or anyone else. Likewise, we squish Colorado Potato Beetles between our gloved hands. A saucer of beer draws slugs and quietly dispatches them. Please try to find a natural deterrent rather than applying anything that will kill the bugs.
  4. If you do find you need more help, be sure to read the instructions on any insecticide before using. The only thing we ever use is Diatomaceous Earth, and even that we use sparingly. We only use it on potato plants and the cabbage family, and we are careful to not plant these near any flowering crops.

Now I admit, living in the Northeast part of the U. S. has an advantage in that we don’t get as many bugs as the warmer states do. But then, the weather there gives them a better chance of getting more good bugs, so it evens out.

 

 

 

July 19, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: FAQs, Preparedness & Green Living, Techniques & Issues  2 Comments

10 Tips to Get More From Your Garden

garden all year

 

If you are going to put the time in to get dirty, you may as well get the most bang for the buck right?

So here’s what we do to maximize our growing areas:

  1.  Plant as much of the year as possible. For great info on this, check out Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Nikki Jabbour and Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. Both writers garden all year in cold climates.
  2. Grow up. There are a number of plants that can easily be grown vertically. In the picture above are dry beans and vining nasturtiums growing up an old decorative windmill. Peas, cucumbers, some squashes and some melons can also be grown vertically. Not only does this save space, you can plant edibles that like shade, lettuce for example, underneath them. Old ladders work great for this, and you can use the steps to add more plants.
  3. Grow down. Hanging baskets, buckets and gadgets like the Topsy Turvy can add a lot to your garden space. Just be sure to give them extra water.
  4. Intercrop. Sounds fancy, right? This just means to plant veggies together. One that grows down, like a carrot, can use space that isn’t being used by veggies that grow mostly above ground. We use a lot of carrots in the Jones’ house, so we grow them in between beets and kohlrabi, and at the feet of the tomatoes.
  5. Plan to grow one crop after another. It isn’t as hard as it seems. We’ve already sown another crop of beets where the lettuce was, and will soon be adding more carrots and other crops that can take the cooler fall temps when the potatoes are ready to be harvested.
  6. Plant smaller varieties. Butterbush Butternut Squash, for example, takes up much less space than the more typical variety. Sugar Baby watermelon is the same way, and both can be container grown. You’ll get smaller fruit, but probably more so it saves space without sacrificing harvest.
  7. Plant like the Pros. Veggie hybrids that are meant for market growers tend to produce more and often are also disease resistant. Likewise, there are  a number of heirlooms that produce well. Check out the veggie names and descriptions in seed catalogs and online to find some to try. One year we grew a zucchini named Cashflow. Yes… we had plenty to share.
  8. Grow indoors. What? While people don’t think twice about having some herbs growing in the kitchen, many don’t consider growing things like lettuce and beans. With a good south facing window, and some supplemental light, you can grow a number of plants inside. Last winter we grew mini tomatoes, eggplant, squash and watermelon indoors and were harvesting them outside in June and July, mush sooner than normal.
  9. Jump start your garden. This encompasses a few things actually, but it’s still easy. You can start seeds indoors, warm up your beds using plastic, and use other season extenders. Also, choose some early crops like peas, carrots, all the cole crops and greens.
  10. Finally, use every nook and cranny. Growing flowers? Plant some dill, carrots and okra to add a little more beauty. Tuck in containers wherever there is an open spot. We once, accidentally, grew pole beans up tomato plants. Be creative and see what you come up with!

How do you maximize your growing space?

The Jones’ Garden System

July 18, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Extending the Season, Gardening, Techniques & Issues  No Comments

Survey Says?

growing tomatillos

Would you please take a few minutes to fill out a short survey? It actually will benefit you.

How?

Your answers can help us make our posts more interesting and specific to what you want.

This is completely anonymous; all we will see are all the answers, no names or anything else like that. Be sure to hit SUBMIT when you get to the end.

The survey will allow you to add your name at the end if you want, feel free to skip that part.

We really do appreciate it, thanks ever so much!

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July 12, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Jonesen'  2 Comments

When to Start Planting a Fall Garden

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

Depending on your location of course, another round of planting might just be something you can do.

This link from Territorial Seeds, shared by my e-friend Rich, gives you a good starting point with which to work. They are located in Oregon, so adjust the timing as needed.

Another great way to get started on a fall garden is to use this Mother Earth News’ What to Plant Now Guide.

This is specific to your zip code and is a great tool, as long as you don’t mind giving an email address.

Following this guide, we would see that we can plant another round of beets, carrots, greens, peas, radishes, and most of the cole crops during July and August as some of the other edibles are finishing up.

If you do a search on your zone, you will likely find a guide like this one we found for Zones 5/6. If you don’t know your hardiness zoone, you can easily look that up here.

What we also know is that some of these veggies can be started indoors under lights, or in a greenhouse, during June and the very beginning of July, to help insure a fall harvest. The cole crops like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are best for that not only because they need a long growing time, but also because they don’t mind be transplanted.

This technique is also known as Succession Planting, something that is simple enough to do.

Do you plant a fall garden to keep the food coming in, or have you just about had enough at that time?

July 11, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Extending the Season, Gardening  No Comments

Confession #77 The Parsnips Monster

growing parsnips as perennials

Okay, so what began as a simple experiment has gotten out of hand, I admit.

The bed pictured was thinned dramatically in the spring, enough to even plant some kohlrabi in one area.

But the parsnips just kept coming.

Not only did they spring up in the bed, as you can see they grew outside as well. In spite of the gravel and getting walked on. Even though the chickens could have eaten them, they kept growing.

And just in case that’s not enough, some of them are going to seed.
That’s right, if left unchecked, they will be coming up next spring as well.

The letting them reseed themselves part, in retrospect, was not a good idea. Except for one thing: we learned chickens don’t like parsnips.

So here’s the change of plans:
1. Parsnips will be planted in a smaller bed that is in a new area of the yard, where the chickens can roam without doing damage.
2. Only 1 root will be allowed to go to seed.
3. That seed will be collected, and carefully distributed back into the bed.
4. The Gardener will triumph over the parsnips.

Okay, we’ll get back to you on that last one.

July 5, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Addiction, How to Grow, Root Veggies, The Experiments  3 Comments

An Easter Egg Tree – You Can Grow That!

Easter eggplant

This is not a tree, nor does it produce eggs.

In truth, this Easter Egg Tree is a variety of eggplant whose purple flowers produce fruit that resemble chicken eggs in both shape and size. They begin white, then turn light yellow and get darker as they mature. Hence the name.

There can be up to a dozen eggs, how ironic, on the plant at any given time. We currently have 5 eggs, 6 flowers and numerous buds. I read here that you can dip the eggplants in food coloring to make them look more like Easter eggs, how cute!

Grow the same way you would any eggplant, although this variety can take more shade.

We started ours indoors last February. The seeds sprouted in 9 days, under lights in a warm area. It began producing flowers in May. The first few didn’t pollinate successfully in the greenhouse, but it is doing better now that it is outdoors; with a little help from us, the wind, and bugs to move the pollen.

It is considered to be an ornamental in that the fruit are said to be bitter. Suggestions are to combine them with other veggies in soups and casseroles. Some sites will list this as inedible, which isn’t completely accurate.

Our intention is to see how long we can keep it growing, if only to entertain our grandson.

Okay, and ourselves as well.

Botanical name: Solanum melongena var. ovigerum
Habit: Annual in areas that receive frost.
Days to Maturity: About 120.
Height: 12-48″ depending on age.
Uses: Ornamental, but it is edible.
Harvest: When deep gold.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a monthly cooperative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Please click on the link above for more posts, and find our others archived here.

July 4, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Eggplant, Peppers & Potatoes, How to Grow, You Can Grow That!  6 Comments

How to Get Melons Sooner

melons

If you click on the picture above you can see where 6 melons are growing on this single potted plant.
Not bad at all for this Zone 5/6 area at the end of June.

For most gardens around here, these kinds of crops might be just starting to flower. You can see the first melon, at the bottom of the plant, is almost ready to be harvested.

So how did we manage to be so close to enjoying a home grown melon for the upcoming Independence Day holiday, and more importantly, how can you?

1. Choose a smaller variety. In this case it is a Sugar Baby watermelon, but you can choose any variety that matures to 3-5 lb. size. Golden Midget, White Wonder and Little Baby Flower all produce small fruit in about 70-80 days.

2. Start the seeds sooner. You can transplant watermelon, so it is easy enough to get the plants going sooner. We admittedly started them right in this container last winter, and thinned to one plant. We then moved the pot to the greenhouse when the time was right. If you can’t do that, just plant so that you will be able to put the container in a sunny window, and even move it outdoors when the days are warm enough.

3. Hand pollinate. The very first melon is the result of us removing a male flower and rubbing it gently on the inside of a female. You can tell the girls by the little melons that are right behind the flowers, the boys are stem only.

Now it is our intention to see if we can keep this plant going longer as well.

You can still start one in a pot now. We’re going to try a cantaloupe. Why not join us?

It sure would be interesting to have fresh homegrown melon for Thanksgiving!

When to harvest melons and other edibles.

June 28, 2015  Tags: , ,   Posted in: Container Gardening, Extending the Season  2 Comments